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Charles Waterhouse, famed Marine artist, dies

Retired colonel, Iwo Jima survivor, was Corps' only artist in residence

Nov. 24, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Retired Col. Charles Waterhouse, who died Nov. 16, painted this World War II scene, 'Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC, Medal of Honor, Guadalcanal.'
Retired Col. Charles Waterhouse, who died Nov. 16, painted this World War II scene, 'Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC, Medal of Honor, Guadalcanal.' (Gift of retired Col. Charles H. Waterhouse, Art Co)
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Waterhouse also painted 'Portrait of Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, USMC, Medal of Honor.' (Gift of retired Col. Charles H. Waterhouse, Art Co)

Retired Col. Charles Waterhouse, who was wounded at Iwo Jima and later gained renown as the “Norman Rockwell” of the Marine Corps died Nov. 16 at the home of his daughter and son-in-law in Toms River, N.J. He was 89.

The only “artist in residence” in the history of the Marine Corps, Waterhouse enlisted in the Corps in 1942 and was assigned to the 5th Engineer Battalion, 5th Marine Division. He was in the first wave during the invasion of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945, and sustained wounds that resulted in losing most of the feeling in his left hand. After the war, he attended the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts in New Jersey.

For the next 28 years, he taught at the school while also working as an illustrator for such publications as Outdoor Life, Readers Digest, the Boy Scouts and others. He also did three tours of duty in Vietnam, which resulted in hundreds of drawings that were later collected in one volume, “Delta to DMZ.”

In 1973, the 49-year-old artist was brought back to active duty at the rank of major to create a series of 14 paintings of the Marines in the Revolution. It was supposed to be a nine-month commission but the Marines kept him on until he retired on Feb. 19, 1991, the 46th anniversary of the landing on Iwo.

By that time, Waterhouse had completed more than 160 major works for the Marine Corps, and his paintings depicted every campaign in the service’s history, from its inception through Operation Desert Storm.

In 1999, the Colonel Charles Waterhouse Museum, a non-profit organization based in Toms River, was established. When the museum closed its doors, the majority of Waterhouse’s body of work was gifted to the United States Marine Corps.

In his final years, Waterhouse embarked on a series of paintings chronicling Marine and Navy Medal of Honor recipients.

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